Georgia Tech Football vs North Carolina: Gameday Preview

ATLANTA - SEPTEMBER 24: A general view of Bobby Dodd Stadium during the game between the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets and the North Carolina Tar Heels on September 24, 2011 in Atlanta, Georgia. Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)
ATLANTA - SEPTEMBER 24: A general view of Bobby Dodd Stadium during the game between the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets and the North Carolina Tar Heels on September 24, 2011 in Atlanta, Georgia. Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images) /

The Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets are looking to earn victory No.2 of the season on Saturday when they take on the North Carolina Tar Heels.

North Carolina Tar Heels (2-3) at Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (1-3)

Bobby Dodd Stadium (Atlanta, GA) – 4:00 pm – Weather – Odds: North Carolina -10.5

Last week, Georgia Tech fell to Temple 24-2 in a game that the Yellow Jackets offense once again struggled immensely, especially inside the red zone. The Jackets only points of the afternoon came on a safety as the defense once again helped keep the Jackets in the game, only surrendering 17 points.

With that, the Jackets on Saturday will be looking to gain some traction at quarterback by going with a new starting quaterback, redshirt freshman James Graham. Ken Sugiura of the AJC reported last night that the Yellow Jackets have given Graham the nod as the starter for Saturday night’s game. North Carolina, on the other hand, is coming off a near upset of Clemson as they fell to the then top ranked Tigers 21-20 in Durham last weekend.

This week we’re also trying out a bit of a different format in our gameday preview, let us know what you think in our comments or replies on Facebook and Twitter!

Georgia Tech Offense vs North Carolina Defense:

Georgia Tech’s offense as Tech fans already know is one of the worst in the country so far this season. The Jackets on the season are averaging just 13.5 points per game and 289.8 yards per game, numbers that won’t put fear into any defense.

Offensively, the Jackets are running the ball over 65% of the time this year with an average of 40 rushing attempts per game and just 21 passing attempts. The good news for the Jackets is that the North Carolina defense has given up plenty of yards to the run, allowing 163.0 yards per game so far this. That being said, they are only giving up 4.5 yards per carry.

With James Graham at quarterback, there is a chance the Jackets look to throw the ball more. That being said, the North Carolina defense has been stout so far against the pass, allowing just 219 yards per game on the season so far. They’re also nearly averaging an interception per game with four interceptions so far on the season.

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If the Jackets are going to find success offensively on Saturday, it will probably come on the ground but they’ll need to find a way to get the ball moving through the air if they hope to come out with a win. The Jackets have yet to show the ability to throw the ball with just 126 yards per game through the air, perhaps, that will change with James Graham under center.

Advantage: North Carolina

North Carolina offense vs Georgia Tech defense:

North Carolina’s offense isn’t blowing away anybody this season but they can also be quite dangerous. The Tar Heels are averaging 24.2 points per game and 392.8 yards per game on offense.

The Tar Heels offense is lead by true freshman quarterback Sam Howell. As Old North Banter’s Luke Tucker put it yesterday, Howell is a quarterback who;

"“shown the ability to make any throw on the field, and he’s smart and full of poise” – Luke Tucker (Old North Banter)"

The numbers show just that for Howell as well with a stat line of 90-for-144 (62.5%) for 1,168-yards, 11 touchdowns, and just two interceptions. A pretty strong stat line for a true freshman quarterback. Last week against Clemson, Howell had one of his tougher games but also helped lead a tremendous scoring drive in the final minutes that gave the Tar Heels the chance at an upset.

With that, the Tar Heels have seen a majority of their nearly 400-yards per game, come through the air, with 238.6 yards per game. This should create an interesting matchup as the Jackets entering the week have one of the nation’s top five secondaries in the country, allowing just 136.8 passing yards per game this season. They’re also averaging an interception per game so far this season with Kaleb Oliver leading the team with two.

North Carolina has a bit of a threat in the run game as well with 154.2 yards per game on the ground. The Jackets rush defense this season has been poor, allowing over 250-yards per game so far this season. If the Jackets are going to pull out a win over the Tar Heels, it will mean that the Jackets found a way to stop the run. If the Jackets allow the Tar Heels to run wild, this one will get ugly, no matter how well the secondary performs against Sam Howell.

Advantage: PUSH (Perhaps slight UNC advantage due to run game vs rush defense)

Georgia Tech Special Teams vs North Carolina Special Teams

Georgia Tech’s special teams so far this season has been solid in some areas and has been underwhelming in other areas. The two areas the Jackets have looked strong in this season is kickoff returns and punting.

When it comes to kick returns, quarterback Tobias Oliver has done the best job of anyone, returning four kickoffs for 133-yards. Surprisingly, freshman All-American Juanyeh Thomas has only returned one kickoff this season. Perhaps, he’ll start getting more looks. At punter, Pressley Harvin III remains a great weapon for the Yellow Jackets, averaging 42.3 yards per punt this season on 24 punts.

The two spots they’ve struggled on the other hand is punt returns and place kicking. When it comes to punt returns, the Jackets have just eight for 23-yards on the season while at place kicking, they’re just one-for-three on the season and five-for-six in extra point attempts.

North Carolina on the other hand has been solid in most spots. They’re averaging just over 21 yards per kickoff so far this this season but haven’t picked up much in punt returns with an average of 7.3 yards per return.

When it comes to place kicking and punting, they have been solid making all 10 extra point attempts this season as well as 7-of-10 field goal attempts. At punter, Ben Kierman is averaging 42.1 yards per punt on 30 attempts this season.

Advantage: PUSH


 As you can tell, the two teams that far separated in our opinion with North Carolina having a definite advantage in just one matchup. That being said, that one matchup is also Georgia Tech’s weakest spot with their offense. The Jackets offense just hasn’t been able to show anything that makes you believe they could get anything consistent going. The defense may be able to keep North Carolina to 17-20 points which for most programs is a formula for success but if the offense once again, struggles, it may be all for none defensively.

Players to Watch:

North Carolina: QB Sam Howell

We may be cheating here by going with the quarterback but we’re huge believers and fans of watching this true freshman quarterback. I personally believe he’s going to be a great college quarterback and has a ton of potential to one day be a great pro quarterback. Obviously, a long way to go till then but Howell has it all and has by far been the best true freshman quarterback in the country.

Georgia Tech: LB Charlie Thomas

No defensive player for the Yellow Jackets may have had the impact so far that Charlie Thomas has had. Thomas has been outstanding for the Jackets so far this season with 28 tackles in four games, on pace for 84 this season and also has five tackles for a loss and two sacks. He also has two forced fumbles on the season. He’s putting together one of the best defensive seasons we’ve seen out of a Yellow Jacket in a while. Look for another big game out of him against the Tar Heels.


Bronston Tankersly: 31-17 North Carolina

Lee Cagle: 20-14 Georgia Tech

Dylan Callaghan-Croley: For the most part, I think Georgia Tech’s defense will be able to handle North Carolina’s offense, especially thanks to the Yellow Jackets top-5 ranked pass defense. That being said, the Jackets offense continues to be a struggle. We’ll see what James Graham is able to do as the starter but for now, there’s just not been enough there to make one believe that the offense will turn it around this week. With that being said, North Carolina will win this game but the Jackets will earn their first cover against the spread on Saturday. 20-13 North Carolina.